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Platinum bullion Eagle returns

Who will be a buying when platinum American Eagle bullion coins return on March 10?

The U.S. Mint says it is striking them again at the request of the public.

“We listened to our customers and are pleased to once again offer platinum bullion,” said Mint Deputy Director Richard A. Peterson in a written release to the press.

It has been six years since these coins were last sold by the U.S. Mint. The 2008 date is the most recent one made. Production was suspended when the full force of the world financial crisis expressed itself in unprecedented demand for gold and silver Eagles. The Mint focused on those two bullion coins because they were required by law to do so. There was more wiggle room with the platinum authorizing legislation.

Back in 2008 the Mint also struck fractional sizes of platinum coins as it does with gold bullion. The tenth ounce, quarter ounce and half ounce will not return – at least not this year.

The 2014 one-ounce platinum coins are available only to the dealers who comprise the U.S. Mint’s Authorized Purchaser network. They in turn will sell the coins to investors and collectors who might want them.

Initial buyers will have to pay a premium of four percent over bullion value, which works out to $59.20 per coin at the current $1,480 price for a troy ounce.

Design of the coin will continue with the standard one used since 1997. The head of the Statue of Liberty is on obverse and a flying eagle appears on reverse.

Proof platinum Eagles also began in 1997. For these, the designs change every year. They are sold directly to collectors by the U.S. Mint. The 2014 issue is not yet available.

Platinum American Eagles have never been particularly successful. Collectors and investors are mostly not familiar with the metal. Mintage of the 2008 one-ounce bullion coin was just 21,800.

The series started with a bang in 1997 and 1998 when the mintages were 56,000 and 133,002, respectively, then annual output declined. In 2006, for example, only 6,000 were produced.

Collectors are not particularly receptive to the proofs. Sales of the 2013 proof stands approximately at 5,700. They are still being sold. Current price on the U.S. Mint website is $1,800 each, a premium of almost 22 percent over the current price of the metal.

Will demand for the 2014 platinum American Eagle bullion coin resume where it left off in 2008, or will it show some pep, as in the late 1990s?

We can only wait and see.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."